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A complete guide to computer science degrees

Interested in shaping our digital future? Discover more about computer science degrees – and if they’re right for you.

man writing code at computer

Despite conversations about AI replacing jobs dominating the marketplace, tech is still one of the fastest-growing job markets, offering exciting career opportunities in data science, software design, and computing technologies.

According to the Universities and College Admission Service (UCAS), the number of students applying for computing-related courses has risen year-over-year since 2019. In fact, computer science saw the biggest jump in student applications in 2023, up 9.5% from 2022.

The need for this degree in today’s digitally-driven world is more important than ever. So there’s no question that it’s a great time to consider getting into this sector.

The best place to start? Check out one of FutureLearn’s online IT and computer science degrees

What’s a computer science degree? 

A computer science degree is an academic program that focuses on the study of computers, computational systems, and the principles of computing. It covers a wide range of topics including programming languages, algorithms, data structures, software engineering, computer architecture, and artificial intelligence, preparing students for careers in various fields such as software development, cybersecurity, data analysis, and computer networking.

Online Degree

MSc Computer Science

  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Are there different types of computer science degrees?

Yes! When researching which computer science degree to study, you’ll see there are tons of courses out there, including online options. Choosing the right one will depend on what career path you want to take.

You might want to focus only on computer science. In that case, a single honours degree would work for you. Or, if you wanted to take a more specialist route, you might consider a joint honours degree where you can learn both computer science alongside another subject. 

For example, if you’re interested in genetics or robotics, you could look for a course that merges the two disciplines:

  • Computer Science BSc
  • Computer Science (Data Science) BSc
  • Biology and Computer Science BSc
  • Computer Science and Electronics BEng

With so many types of computer science degrees out there, it’s good to look at which ones best suit your interests and career goals.

What are the entry requirements for a computer science degree?

Like any undergraduate degree, you’ll need to meet specific entry requirements to enrol in an online computer science degree.

Must-haves:

  • A Levels: A* AAA-CCC (Usually a combination of maths, science, and information technology)
  • BTECs: D*D*D* – MMM
  • Scottish Highers: AAAAA – CCCD
  • International Baccalaureate – 36 points (minimum)

Nice to haves:

  • Further maths
  • Computer science
  • Computer studies
  • Economics
  • Electronics
  • Engineering
  • Statistics
  • Business studies

Your qualifications and grades are translated into UCAS points. UCAS is the website where you apply to study your chosen course. Universities will ask for different UCAS points to apply as a first port of call. Typically for a computer science degree, you’ll need between 96-200 UCAS points from subjects you’ve studied.

How long does it take to earn a computer science degree?

Typically, an undergraduate computer science degree takes three years to complete. Each year you will gain credits from the modules you’ve studied. Many universities also offer the opportunity to take a year out to work in industry or abroad. This is an invaluable chance to gain more skills and experience in the real world, preparing you for a career after you graduate.

What are the computer science degree course assessments like?

Different courses will have different assessment methods, but usually, they will include a combination of the following:

  • Essays
  • Exams
  • Coursework
  • Lab reports
  • Presentations
  • Exercises
  • Literature reviews
  • Projects
  • Tests

How difficult is a computer science degree?

With its advanced concepts and the need to learn a whole new programming language, computer science has a reputation for being a difficult course. It can be challenging and you will need to have both a logical and analytical mind, but you’ll be rewarded with new skills when you overcome challenges and solve hard problems. Plus, you’ll be surrounded by a network of like-minded students and mentors, and have resources for support when you need them.

What can you do with a computer science degree?

As a computer science graduate, you’ll have sought-after technical skills that employers are increasingly looking for. Whether you’re pioneering new business processes or developing forecasts, you’ll be equipped to enter a rapidly growing sector with a strong salary potential.  

What career paths are available for computer science graduates?

Computer science graduates can work in a range of industries and companies. These aren’t just in the IT industry, but a variety of sectors, such as finance, healthcare, media, manufacturing, and business. Here are just a few career options at your disposal when you earn a computer science degree:

  • Software developer
  • Data analyst
  • Cyber security analyst
  • IT network tester
  • Web designer
  • QA engineer
  • IT support technician
  • Management consultant
  • IT manager
  • Graphic designer

How much does a computer science degree cost?

Tuition fees for studying a computer science degree in the UK can range anywhere from £15,000 to £36,000 per academic year. The university’s location, ranking, and reputation contribute to total fees.

What about overseas students?

International students can expect to pay between £12,550 to £44,000 per academic year to study a computer science degree in the UK.

The good news is, there are a variety of funding options available:

  • Scholarships and grants: Numerous scholarships are available, both merit-based and need-based. Universities, government bodies, and private organisations offer financial support to eligible students.
  • Student loans: Government-backed loans are accessible to UK and EU students, providing financial assistance with favourable repayment terms. However, international students may need to explore private loan options.
  • Employer sponsorship: Some employers support employees in pursuing further education by sponsoring their degrees. This can alleviate financial burdens on individuals.

Is a computer science degree worth it?

The costs and volume of work on online computer science degrees may seem daunting. But a computer science degree is a ticket to a rewarding and profitable career.

What are some of the benefits?

Strong job market – The market for computer professionals is showing a stronger-than-average growth rate. According to a Gitnux Market Data Report, the computer design industry is expected to grow by 23.1% from 2020 to 2030. The report also reveals that 94% of computer science graduates are in full-time employment within six months of graduating. As companies become increasingly digital, the job market is going to need computer science graduates more than ever. 

Higher than average salaries – Highly skilled and hugely in demand, it’s no surprise that computer scientists are highly employable. And companies pay a premium for the best talent. According to Indeed, the average salary for computer scientists is £54,215, making it an attractive career prospect.

Career variety – Computer science degrees open up exciting career paths in so many industries. This offers variety and the opportunity to pivot into different roles.

Global opportunities – There are endless opportunities to take on international positions. And thanks to the nature of technology, many of these are remote.

Job satisfaction – You’ll be part of a community of like-minded people who are passionate about pushing boundaries in tech. Opportunities to work on ground-breaking initiatives and solve problems will give you the satisfaction of knowing your work will have a real impact.

Transferrable skills – It’s not all about knowing how to code; you’ll learn many highly-valued transferrable skills, such as critical thinking, judgement, and decision making that work in jobs beyond the digital environment.

Is a computer science degree right for you?

If you enjoy problem-solving, digging deep into the theory of computing, and the complexities of software and algorithms, a computer science degree may be your calling. 

When you embark on a computer science degree, you get a solid understanding of programming languages and data structures, as well as the inner workings of technology.

If this doesn’t sound like the right fit, but you still want to pursue a career in this exciting field, there are other degree courses you could explore. For example, an Information Technology degree is a more hands-on approach to technology. This focuses on more practical skills, like network administration and system maintenance.

Whatever course you choose, it’s important to select one that best matches your skills, passions and future goals.

Online Degree

MSc Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence

  • 2 years
  • postgraduate
  • Flexible Learning
Apply now

Consider an online computer science degree as your next step

Online undergraduate degrees are a great option if you’re looking for flexibility and cost-effectiveness. You can study from anywhere and work around your degree to lower the impact on your finances. Online courses often leverage innovative technologies, the latest learning tools, and global networking opportunities.

Embrace an online computer science degree with FutureLearn

FutureLearn’s online degrees are designed to make learning work for you. You still come away with the same qualifications as those studying onsite but have the freedom to tailor your studies around your commitments.

With a range of computer science degrees from world-class universities, you can explore options in a variety of fields, including data analytics, artificial intelligence, cyber security and software engineering.
Browse our collection of online computer science degrees.

>> Explore our range of online software engineering degrees

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